I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Neil Portnow will either (a) donate a large chunk of cash to #TimesUp, (b) suddenly discover a desire to spend more time with his family, or (c) both. The president of the Recording Academy responded to criticism that men unfairly dominated the Grammys by telling women that they needed to put more heart and soul into their work. “I think it has to begin,” Portnow said backstage after the show, “with women who have the creativity in their hearts and their souls who want to be musicians to step up. Because I think they would be welcomed.”
Get ready to get woke, Neil:
A number of female artists slammed his remarks, including Pink who tweeted: “Women in music don’t need to ‘Step up’ – women have been stepping since the beginning of time”. Sheryl Crow said Portnow’s comments came off as “sexist” and “insensitive.”
“I was baffled,” said singer Kimbra, who won two Grammys for the 2012 hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
She addressed the issue at a Brooklyn concert Monday night.
“There was a little comment made at the Grammys last night about women needing to step up, okay? Well, I wish they’d been at this show right here,” she said. “Killer females producing, engineering, singing.”
How dumb was this argument in the first place? The Grammy awards are chosen by popular vote among the academy members, both in the nominating and finalist rounds. Academy membership is open to anyone who has at least twelve digital music tracks or six physical tracks published anytime within five years of the application for membership. The cost is a nominal $100 fee. It may not be the People’s Choice Awards, but within the industry, it’s about as far from exclusive as it gets. If the members vote overwhelmingly for men, how is that the Recording Academy’s fault? And why is it an issue that requires Portnow to propose a solution other than “get more competitive”?
Still, Portnow should have known better than to answer that question honestly in the current political and cultural climate. Of course, that climate was produced by his fellow elite entertainers and continually amplified over the years at awards shows like the Grammys, so Portnow shouldn’t expect too much sympathy for his current plight. “For ’tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petard,” William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, a phrase which has continually proven its usefulness in politics and culture.
If the entertainment industry wants a real answer to their question, it’s this: get rid of the awards shows. Put on an annual benefit concert instead, where the Recording Academy can ensure perfect demographic balance among performers, and also eliminate the opportunity for the constant pontificating that has finally begun to alienate its target audience. The only thing worse than the annual exercise in entitled self-congratulation is the petulant whining among millionaires over their alleged oppression afterward.